For weeks, we have been waiting for this day. Our day trip to Isha Yoga Center (Google Map directions) on foothills of Velliangiri mountains – also known as Kailash of the South. We had signed up for the Ashram visit program organized by Isha volunteers.
After a hectic day’s work, both Chanchal and I met in Kormangala and proceeded to St John’s Medical College Bus Stop to board the bus to the ashram. Throughout the night journey, the bus was abuzz with enthusiastic Isha volunteers talking about their experiences, sharing stories, singing along, watching Sadhguru’s sermon videos, et all. It almost felt like the kind of euphoria one associates with juvenile boys and girls out on their first unsupervised excursion with moonshine to boot. Only that this group was just high on life.
Reaching Isha Yoga Center in the wee hours
Early morning, by 5:00 a.m. we reached the gates of the ashram. Towering stone plinths and pillars with snake carvings welcomed us in. In the subtle darkness of the dawn, we were given our Ashram visit ID-cards, men and women of the group were asked to head to different sides of the ashram to get fresh, take a bath and carry out their morning yoga or kriya. We were asked to meet at 7:20 AM at the grand Nandi statue.
After freshening up and taking a shower, I was on my own. Exploring the place around our stay area. Mesmerized by the green cover, the bio-diversity and mooing of cattle from the ashram’s cattle farm, numerous trees in fruition and blossom. I just strayed here and there, looking at a tree, glancing at a flower, hearing the call of morning birds, smell of the earth drenched in the overnight dew, absorbing the view of the Velliangiri mountains.
The tree around had a gentle girth,
As raw mangoes and may flowers rejoiced their birth,
The call of the myna and the humble sparrow,
Pierced the clutter of life, like a cosmic arrow.
The day unfolded and was drenched in surreal experiences.
I learned one could also stay over at the ashram cottages. I will be back to do exactly that. Information on stay options and more.
1. The grand Nandi at the entrance to Dhyanalinga
The Nandi Bull, sits overlooking the entrance to Dhyanalinga. He just sits there, without anticipation or expectation, challenging our relationships with the supreme, by example contradicting everything organized religions have done to dictate and define one’s equation with the divine.
The majestic bull weighing well over 20 tons is made of small pieces of metal pieced together to form a hollow shell and then filled with carefully concocted mix of sesame seeds, turmeric, soil and certain other things.
2. Visiting the Linga Bhairavi Shrine
We queued up to enter the shrine of Linga Bhairavi. There were some rituals or perhaps an Aarti going on inside. At the entrance, on the ground, there is a sculpted figure of a lady in the astanga pranama with her left leg half folded over her right leg and her forehead to the ground in total submission.
I entered the shrine along with Chanchal. I paid my obeisance to the deity — the divine feminine. I did not feel a moving force or nor was I overwhelmed as most people around seemed to be. Around me, many people were teary eyed, visibly moved, overwhelmed and humbled. Since I did not experience any of that, I felt removed from everyone there who seemed to be absorbed in that movement. I did, however, notice and gleefully observed the beautiful sari motif that was painted on either side of the wall emerging from the deity — giving an illusion of a sari being worn by the deity herself.
I do humbly submit my wife’s experience in her own words, which was very different from mine.
Chanchal’s view: The day had started early and after my yoga and Shambhvi Kriya, I was ready for my day at the ashram. We were to start with the visit to Linga Bhairavi temple. This was the second time I was going to visit the temple. The moment we queued up to enter, I was filled with lot of emotions – memories from my last visit, love for the lady inside, excitement of meeting her again ~ all together with a hint of fear. Yes, fear! Fear before I take my leap of faith. I knew I would have no control on myself once I enter the shrine. My last experience had taught me that this is one place I give in totally and am overwhelmed to the core. This leads to an extremely emotional and devotional state which I have only experienced at this place. I am most vulnerable here and yet most safe. Tears just do not stop falling. I was also not sure how Bala is going to behave seeing me in that state.
Within few minutes, I was exactly in the state I was thinking about. Tears just did not stop falling from my eyes. I was extremely calm. There was a strange yet comfortable pressure between my eyebrows. The intensity of the pressure kept increasing and tears kept coming.
After the darshan and meditating there for a while, my tears stopped. Bala was around me throughout, quiet and calm.
We both knew words are useless at such places.
After tying the haldi thread on the pole within the temple, we all bowed down again to the Mother and came out all calm and blissful.
3. Energizing dips in Theerthakunds : Suryakund and Chandrakun
In line with ancient Indian practices, before entering into the Dhyanalinga, we were asked to take a dip in one of the ashram’s sacred water bodies. These are called TheerthaKunds — Suryakund for men and Chandra Kund for women. A dip in these sacred water bodies is known to heighten one’s receptivity to spiritual experience.
I entered the Suryakund, into the cold water body. It took me a while to feel comfortable with the cold water. It was a surreal experience, in that huge subterranean water body with a huge Sun symbol hanging from the super high ceiling. There were Lingas submerged in the water that one could touch. I spent about 10 minutes in there and walked out. I walked in with a lot of questions, walked out calm and for most part settled in my mind.
Curious, how Chanchal’s experience was in Chandrakund.
4. The deep meditative experience at Dhyanalinga
Alright, let me say it. Strong skepticism runs through my veins. In my day job, I take pride in my professional skepticism. Walking into the Dhyanalinga entry point, I was a bundle of questions and doubts about the whole experience. Entering into the Dhyanalinga after taking bath in the Suryakund, I was calm. So mixed feelings.
At the entrance, there is a stone pillar that has symbols of all major world religion carved on it. Clearly announcing that people of any faith, religion or otherwise are welcome. It is open to everyone, it is an inclusive space and not an exclusive one.
We were made to sit at the aangan or mitham of the sanctum for 15 minutes quietly without uttering a word. A sort of like a preparation for what was inside. In the waiting area, all I could feel and hear was my breathing. Then slowly, we were ushered into the Dhyanalinga meditative space. A huge circular space with a spherical dome and a towering Linga atop a coiled serpent at the center.
I sat there with others in yoga mudra, with eyes closed. I lost track of time. I felt deeply calm and the only realization was that my physical body needed work. I could feel the spasm in my weak upper back muscles – perhaps signalling to me that to experience this space in a deeper way, I need to work on my body first. Then comes everything else.
Despite my deep skepticism for anything that does not arise from my own experiences, I did have an experience. I felt balanced for hours and days to come.
5. AUMkar Chanting session
We were ushered into a hutment where two Isha Yoga teachers were waiting for us and there was a large television which played “AUM” chanting training video by Sadhguru. The journey from OM to AUM is perhaps one from ignorance to awareness. We have been trained from childhood to pronounce the sound as OM, not knowing what it meant except revere it as something divine.
I learned that it is AUM – AAAAAA–OOOOOOOO-MMMMMM. The primordial sound of the universe. The only three sounds that we can make without activating our tongue. So these three sounds are the building blocks of all sounds and vibrations. Every other sound is just adaption of AAAA, OOOO and MMMM. If you do not believe this, try it.
Coming to my experience, when I chanted these three sounds with my eyes closed in yoga mudra, I was able to observe within me the vibrations these sounds generated. It reverberated within me for many hours.
Read more on AUM chanting for the thirsty
6. The grand Adi Yogi and Yogeshwara Linga
Late afternoon, we started walking towards the Adi Yogi Statue and Yogeshwara Linga. The sun was beating down hard, the farther away from the Ashram we walked the more harsher the sun seemed. Just then we realized it was because of lack of tree line. Inside the ashram, it was a biodiversity sanctuary. Outside was just open field.
In about ten minutes or so, we reached the Adi Yogi Shiva statue. First, we paid obeisance to the Yogeshwar Linga and then walked up the stairs to take a closer look at the 112-feet Adiyogi Shiva statue. It is recognized as the “Largest Bust Sculpture” by Guinness World Records and was inaugurated by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Maha Shivaratri Day – 24, February 2017.
Just like the Nandi Bull at the entrance of Dhyanalinga, the larger than life AdiYogi statue is made of small pieces of metal melded together. For the longest I thought it was made of stone. Now knowing it is made of steel, somehow it feels different.
The Yogeshwara Linga has been consecrated without the Anahata (heart chakra) — representing an emotionless and totally inclusive Yogi.
Our entire group, did some group meditation and chanting in front of the statue and Yogeshwara Linga. I was of course busy between capturing my own thoughts and capturing vibrant moments.
7. Nutritious and satvik food at Biksha hall
Winding down our day at the Isha Yoga center with some some fulfilling and nutritious food served at the Biksha hall. On inquiring a bit, I got to know that on an average the Biksha Hall feeds over 2,000 people at every meal time.
When we entered, we learned we were supposed to be silent and not utter a word. In silence, we filled our plate with piping hot delicious looking food and sat down the floor to eat. Men and women were seated separately. Each morsel, after a tiring and yet energizing day seemed like a blessing. With gratitude and a lot of appreciation, we had our food. I must say, the food was delicious – certainly this alone can be a reason to visit the Isha Yoga Center.
Chanchal and I exchanged notes that how we made a good decision to spend our Sunday at Isha. We thoroughly enjoyed our experiences.
Now, I do want to leave you all with a few things to ponder on.
Anything that happens on a massive scale in our country brings an ecological scare. On visiting the AdiYogi Statue area, I have the same concern. I looked around at a vast stretch of flat land in front of me as I stood at the podium besides the Adiyogi statue.
A ginormous parking lot, vast open and nearly barren fields, soaring tourism bringing over 20,000 people every weekend, general lack of civic sense in many of us is a collective scare. What is going to happen to this supposed green belt? How soon can we make the area green? What role can we play to make sure the delicate ecological balance is maintained and nurtured.
Some tips from a conscious mind (something I know everyone at Isha Yoga will welcome):
- Keep the precinct clean, do not throw garbage or plastic waste on the pathways.
- Keep commercialization at bay, avoid hyper development including hotels, motels and eateries.
- Keep planting trees, we need more green cover in this world.
- Keep animals, don’t exploit them. Walk instead. We actually witnessed one bullock pulling a cart that was long and big enough to seat over 10 people.
- Keep your mind curious, lest today’s awareness becomes tomorrow’s rigid belief.